The Lyrical Pickpocket

The Lyrical Pickpocket

A sound-spelled life
Eric Stokes
Riverside Winds
Maria Jette
Trudy Anderson
Kathy Kienzle
Merilee Klemp
Jim Jacobson
Sonja Thompson
Catalog Number: 
new classical
solo voice

Minneapolis, MN

Release Date: 
Oct 27, 2017
Liner Notes: 
1 CD
One Sheet: 

Music is for the people, for all of us. 

The land of music is everyone's nation -- his tune, her beat, your drum -- one song, one vote.  Composers are called to serve the people.  Performers are called to serve also by presenting the music in distinctive ways.  The people are invoked to witness this service which is celebration of our time -- spun being -- the ineluctable dance of sound-spelled Life. 

Eric Stokes (1930-1999)

Eric Stokes was a "musical citizen" in the Twin Cities for almost forty years, teaching in the Music School at the University of Minnesota from 1961 after having studied there under Paul Fetler and Dominick Argento. Eric has been variously described as a crusty, eccentric, wonderfully humorous, very healthy and resourceful American composer of gentle, witty, lyrically accessible music, with a taste for folkloric Americana and a "Whitmanesque" ear. 

This collection of chamber music, delightfully performed by some of those closest to him, shows his range and deep respect for performers and listeners. The works are as fun to play as they are to hear, and bring to mind the affable collegiality and the pragmatic purpose of his musical life. There are echoes of Charles Ives, Henry Brant, John Cage thrown into the mix of lyrical whimsy and solid recital craft. Song, poetry, music for special occasions, friendly offerings, audience participation, and educational twists all take center stage in this album; as much a tribute to Eric’s living gifts as it is a reminiscence of a bygone days.

Oboist Merilee Klemp has brought together some of Eric’s intimate circle of Minnesota all-stars, including soprano Maria Jette, harpist Kathy Kienzle, pianist Sonja Thompson, and other top Twin Cities freelancers.

The CD version includes pdfs of all the scores to the music.




"All artists are “lyrical pickpockets,” picking bits they like and rearrange them into something new. Eric Stokes was a master picker, and Klemp has done an invaluable service by picking and presenting his music so well." [FULL ARTICLE] - Jon Sobel


"Minnesota composer Eric Stokes (1930-1999) is (hyperbole alert) an American treasure that this writer only recently discovered. Yes, he’s a modern composer of notated music (classical) but his style has nothing to do with the minimalist mob (Glass, Reich, Adams...ok, maybe Adams, a bit) nor is he hidebound or outré. Stokes composes mostly tonal music (too-simply put, not much dissonance) but it’s not predictable at all. Composed for mostly small ensembles, there’s the ele- gance of renaissance and baroque music while other areas have the felicitously fractured approach of Stravinsky and the folk-inspired Americana of Charles Ives, Aaron Copeland, Roy Harris, and Frank Zappa. (With the latter, I refer to his compositions for orches- tra, not his rock side.) There are hints of jazz and classy film music (think Goldsmith and Korngold) as well.

Stokes often has some rhythmic impetus going on (also too-simply put, his compositions sound like they’re going someplace, never static or arrhythmic) plus he can push the envelope some (his “Woodwind Quintet” has sounds I thought certainly produced by the human voice, but not). Stokes makes convivial music, thoughtful but never staid, and marked with gentleness and subtly sly humor. Recommended to connoisseurs of classical sounds as well as neophytes." - Mark Keresman


"Eric Stokes (1930-1999) belongs to the large group of American composers as eccentric as they are interesting, unjustly little known. His training tells us about a young author who, after assiduously studying the classics of the history of European cultured music, finds his voice by coming into contact with innovators, and his compatriots, such as Charles Ives, John Cage, Henry Brant, from whom he resumed, respectively, the collage technique, the playful spirit, and the sonorous spatialism: characteristics that he amalgamates in an original way up to forge his own personal expressive language, which emerges in a particularly evident way in the two suites for wind quintet. In the second - The Lyrical Pickpocket, where the winds are reached by the piano - Stokes draws from folk songs of pure lyricism and pronounced rhythmic vivacity, on which he works with grace and refinement to construct an imaginative instrumental songs, as bizarre as it is contagious. More indecipherable, even for what concerns the texts, are the two cycles of songs, written at a distance of thirty years from each other, but united by timbric refinement, sense of humor, and a feeling of perennial unpredictability . The mastery of the most disparate compositional techniques allows Stokes to conceal them behind a veil of naiveté that makes even seemingly more difficult passages enjoyable." [FULL ARTICLE] - Filippo Focosi


"The music of Eric Stokes is given deft interpretation by a nonet  of Trudi Anderson/fl, Jennifer Gerth/cl, Laurie Hatcher Merz/bsoon, James Jacobson/cel, Maria Jette/sop, Kathy Kienzie/harp, Merilee Klemp/ob-Eh,Sonja Thompson/p and Matt Wilson/fh. The four major suites have 405 parts, with a single  piece, “Give and Take” a wrestling match between Klemp and Jacobson. Hints of Peter and the Wolf pop up on the plaintive “The Lyrical Pickpocket” while Jette’s sweet voice glides with Klemp during “Western Wind.” Modern classical moments team with clariente on “Woodwind Quintet #2” and the team gets quirky during “Song Circle” which has Anderson’s flute twirling and Kathy Kienzle’s harp adding buoyant adjectives. Playful!" [FULL ARTICLE] - George Harris


"The result is a charming collection of obviously modern but appealing pieces, with moments of lyricism with a contemporary idiom. Particular strengths include some apposite word painting as well as moments of real wit." [FULL ARTICLE] - Michael Wilkinson